Where have all the black-owned businesses gone?

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor:

In a recent business article, researcher Brian S. Feldman explored the question: “What happened to all the black-owned businesses?”

Feldman does a comprehensive review of the history of black-owned businesses and how they slowly eroded over the past 30 years. Examples were cited of the black-owned hair industry. Feldman wrote that former Revlon executive predicted in 1986 that black-owned hair care businesses would be sold to white companies. He was correct.

In 1996, Ivax purchased Johnson Products, the 39-year-old company that sold Ultra Sheen. That acquisition, according to Feldman, was the beginning of the end of black-owned hair care companies. His prediction came true within 10 short years.

Another example cited was the Llewellyn grocery store chain in the Bronx.  In 1969, J. Bruce Llewellyn grew 10 grocery stores in the Bronx to the nation’s largest minority-owned retail business. Feldman cites the shift away from policies that anti -trust enforcement and other fair trade laws permitted major box giants like Walmart to engage in business practices that were once illegal. In 1990 Llewellyn’s reign ended!

Feldman also tackled the demise of black-owned funeral homes.  In her book “To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American way of Death,” Susan Smith, Ph.D. stated that in most towns African-American funeral home owners and directors were historically the most independently owned businesses because they were not beholden to white business.

Not anymore. According to Smith, independently owned African- American funeral homes are in peril. She cites the evolution of national chains such as Service Corporation International for moving African-American funeral homes out of business.

She also cites a 40 percent drop in membership of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association as another example of decline.

In Feldman’s article, he quotes Bob Dickerson, CEO of the Birmingham Business Resource Center, who posits had our businesses been maintained and the money plowed back into our communities, it would have made the world of different in the sustainability of our businesses and institutions.

This is exactly the premise and foundation the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP is hosting its 2017 Freedom Fund Celebration on. As a result, 90 percent of the money spent will be disbursed to minority- owned business within the community.

We believe that we can’t, as a civil rights organization, be viewed as credible when talking about economic opportunities for black-owned businesses when we are not intentional about creating economic opportunities for them ourselves.

Our 2017 Freedom Fund Celebration, themed a Juneteenth Celebration, will be an all-white classy and casual affair, and will be held on the grounds of the historic McCabe United Methodist Church on Saturday, June 17, located at 2800 26th Ave. S, starting at 6:00 p.m.

Tickets @ $50.00 and souvenir booklet ads are still available by calling 727-798-5361, by attending our May 23 general membership meeting at the Enoch Davis center or by visiting our website at naac-stpete.org.

Maria L. Scruggs
President, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP

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